I start writing at 9:05 am. This isn’t particularly early by many people’s standards, but let me give you some context. I slept past 1 am, woke up at 9:00 then began working directly without breakfast or even a trip to the loo.
A seemingly needless and tortuous start to one’s day, but a necessary one in my world. My six-year-old daughter, Maryam, is a notoriously light-headed sleeper and finding time to write has become a struggle these days. Drafting my latest middle grade novel has become one of the few ‘me time’ activities that I enjoy. Since when is ‘work’ a ‘me time’ activity, you ask?
Since I birthed two children and lost my identity as an individual.
Believe me, the hour I spent typing on a growling empty stomach was pure bliss compared to the events that followed.
The kids wake up at 10 am. Good time to pop into the toilet, I think to myself, and go ahead and do just that when my two-year-old strolls inside looking uncomfortable (Yes the toilet door was open. Mum life). I pull the back of his nappy to take a look, and liquid diarrhea leaks down his legs and onto the bathroom floor.
No. No. No.
I finish up quickly, warning him to stay put, before dumping him into the bathtub. Clothes off.
Faucet on. Then I rush out of the bathroom to inspect the damage.
Like a witness at a crime scene I look on and gasp.
Before me is a watery poop trail starting from my ensuite bathroom, cutting through my bedroom, through the dining room to the living room and swirling round the sofa’s perimeter.
If you’re Muslim, you’re well aware of the logistics of cleaning no.1s and 2s. I wipe, then wash each poop blob with water, wipe then spray with disinfectant and wipe again. This laborious task takes me little over an hour- with a large side of yelling and tears.
Ali for the fifth time from the bathtub: Waaah! Mama.
Me: Maryam! Go to your brother!
Maryam: He wants you!
Me: I’m cleaning poo. Go to your brother!
Maryam: He wants you!
Ali: Waaaah! Mama!
I try to keep my ‘zen mum’ hat on and inhale.
C’est la vie, I tell myself. I finish-up cleaning, dress Ali and start breakfast. A very late breakfast I should say. It’s 11 am now. The kids eat and I take a few bites of my Egyptian fava bean dip or foul before diving into the curious workings of the toddler digestive track. In other words, I google: ‘explosive watery diarrhea’ on my phone.
Dr Google is not very helpful:
Too much fiber causes diarrhea.
Too little fiber causes diarrhea.
Stomach bugs cause diarrhea.
Sometimes nothing causes diarrhea. This is called toddler diarrhea and can be fixed with some dietary adjustments.
Hmm…This reassures me a little and so I put the morning drama aside, and get the kids ready to visit a potential daycare for Ali. Here the day takes a short turn for the better. You see, the universe often enjoys lulling us into a false sense of security.
And I fell for it.
The daycare is lovely and Ali loves the place. Happy and content, I decide to take the kids to the supermarket to buy some diarrhea friendly ingredients. All is well when Maryam crashes her mini trolley into one of the fridges. Nothing is damaged but I take this as a good moment to remind her of an important lesson:
And this is why we don’t run in the supermarket.
I really shouldn’t have been so smug because two minutes later I crash my own trolley into a play dough display. The whole thing topples over, snaps in half, sending playdough tubs flying in every direction. Several glances shoot our way but I’m too overwhelmed to feel anything more than mild embarrassment. Plus, I’ve been listening to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck on audible and that’s exactly what I keep telling myself- after apologizing profusely of course. Maryam, on the other hand, is distraught and needs constant reassurance that: no, everyone isn’t angry at us. And two: we will be allowed back into the supermarket.
Things don’t get better when we arrive home. Ali’s hot, tired and upset so I grab him with one arm, four bags of groceries with the other and trek up the stairs to the first floor where my flat is. I put Ali down for a minute to take my scarf off and he erupts in tears. I rush back to him, carry him over my shoulder and splash!
He vomits all over my back and the floor.
I’m frozen. My feet are covered in vomit next to bags of groceries. Our breakfast is still on the dining table. The flat is a mess. Ali is limp over my shoulder.
This isn’t some regular toddler diarrhea…
This feels like gastro.
No God. No! I HATE gastro. I’d rather sell a kidney than throw up. And now the flat is completely contaminated.
I want to cry.
But I don’t. Instead I reach for a box of tissues, throw a couple on the floor and stand on them. Then I shuffle to the wipes on the kitchen counter, only to realize that I had accidentally left a mound of poopy wipes there too.
I chuck the dirty wipes in the bin. Then I wipe Ali’s mouth and fingers and plop him in front of Peppa Pig while I tackle the puddle of vomit with unholy amounts of kitchen towels. Then I peel my vomit-drenched clothes off and throw them into the laundry. With his belly freshly empty, Ali turns to me and utters one word: um.
Aka: feed me woman.
So I cook lunch. It’s 2 pm at this point and I make chicken and buttery mash that’s supposed to bind the watery, lumpy mess in Ali’s bowels. But he then decides he’s not interested in food anymore and needs a nap. So I put him down and have lunch with Maryam.
Our weekly cleaner arrives. Hallelujah!
She begins cleaning while I prepare Maryam for online school. The first hour is okay but then Ali wakes up and dirties three more nappies with soupy diarrhea. Maryam at this point has given up on school, and I end up juggling nappy changes, feeding Ali and forcing Maryam to stay put for school.
Which she doesn’t.
I yell more and she cries more. And so on and so on, till my mum-guilt is sky high.
This drama culminates at 6 pm with me finally giving up on the last lesson of school and some very creative passive aggressive tactics by my daughter.
Maryam: Mama this is for you.
(Gives me a drawing with several hearts)
Aha! An apology!
Me: Woow so many hearts, so lovely.
Maryam: No! It’s not. It’s broken. You broke my heart!
(I look down at the picture and note the zigzags down each heart)
And now my daughter hates me.
Ugh. More mum-guilt.
But at least the flat was nice and clean. And I had a nice bowl of Cheerios- before Ali ruined the tranquility of the moment by wanting some.
So yeah, my day was an utter mess, but I guess, it’s a privilege to struggle doing something you want, as opposed to struggling with issues that are imposed on you. I wanted to have kids and hellish days are part of that.
But sometimes, when things get rough, I like to imagine that my life is part of some sitcom. The frazzled mum in a comedy always seems admirable and endearing. In reality, I doubt many mums feel that way. But we should.
Mothers around the world, I salute you. This ‘raising another human’ business is no joke and you’re doing great.
Now. A shower.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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